Disconnected during a world-wide crisis


Cameron Gibson, Staff Writer

     On Wednesday March 11, I had walked into BWI ready to leave the country. I was headed for Cuba. I would be there for eight days in a town outside of Havana called Bejucal to do mission work with my church.
     Before I had left, I was aware of the situation with a growing pandemic called Coronavirus.
     At the time there were about 1,200 cases in the US, and there was still a lot of uncertainty around what actions would be taken to slow the spread of the virus. On the day I left, the US restricted European travel and began to warn against traveling abroad.
     While we were in Cuba, my team and I were very disconnected from the outside world. In Cuba Wi-Fi is very rare outside of places called “Wi-Fi Parks,” which are government-controlled Wi-Fi networks that must be paid for. Because of this, we had very limited access to things such as the news, phone calls, and texts, and we would learn about the news at a very slow rate.
     When we first arrived in Cuba, there was not much question about whether the Coronavirus would affect our trip or not. At the time, it seemed that the virus would only affect large gatherings of people, such as large sporting events. That day, travel restrictions to Europe would be put in effect, and the government warned against any travel.
     At this point, we began to wonder whether it would be best to end the trip early or not. We worried about the possibility of being quarantined once we landed in Florida and the possibility of delays in getting home. While we were there, our trip leader was being advised that we should probably leave early. She asked the group how we felt and what we would like to do. The group decided to finish our originally-planned eight days in Cuba.
      Two days later we would learn that schools had been closed, and the situation at home was changing very rapidly. Our leader decided that it was in our best interest to leave two days early instead of doing what we had originally planned.
     I am a very stressed and anxious person by nature. While I was in Cuba, to my surprise, I experienced very minimal stress and anxiety. I believe this to be because of the nature of the situation I was in. While in Cuba we had to deal with everything on a very day-to-day basis.
     Each day brought new news that completely changed our situation. We had so little control of our situation that it did not make sense to worry; we just had to go with the flow.
     Returning home was pretty strange, I almost seemed to be coming home to a completely different place. On the way home, the airports were fairly empty, and everyone in them had masks and gloves. It was also very strange to come back and not go back to school.
     Overall, the trip was a very positive experience for me. Although there was a global pandemic, in an isolated country like Cuba you feel as though you are in a completely different world. In some ways this is both good and bad, but as for me, while I was there, it provided me with a very stress-free experience.